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Local elections officials concerned about the possibility of two primaries in New York this year

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

County elections officials in New York are scrambling to get ready for the fallout of this week’s court decision that threw out the state’s Democratic-drawn state Senate and congressional maps.

The state’s highest court, in ruling those maps violated the state constitution because they were too partisan, has ordered new maps drawn, with August primaries in those new districts, if needed. It’s something that is unprecedented and will be costly.

This ruling has thrown Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny’s election calendar for 2022 into uncertain waters. The county has never held two primaries so close together. A regularly scheduled June 28 primary that includes races for governor, lieutenant governor and state Assembly will still be held, with an August primary likely for Congress and state Senate, less than two months later.

"None of our polling places are ready for this. None of our inspectors are ready for this. It was not on the calendar. It was not something that had been part of discussions with polling places at the beginning of the year,” said Czarny. “We are going to have to scramble to get ready for August, while we’re preparing for June."

And with all the overtime and logistical issues this creates, it’s not going to be cheap.

"The budgets set for the boards of election are set for two elections, not three,” Czarny said. “And elections are our number one cost. And it means it could go over our election costs by a third".

In Onondaga County, Czarny said it could cost almost a half-million dollars. In its decision, the court has appointed a non-partisan special master to redraw the maps, which are due May 20. That doesn’t leave much time for passing petitions and getting candidates on the ballots in these new districts.

"I’m already worried now,” Czarny said. “In a normal time frame we would already be petitioning for an August primary according to election law. We’re going to have to do something different than we’ve ever done."

It is possible that the primaries could be combined into a single election held in August. That would require an agreement between Gov. Kathy Hochul and leaders of the Assembly and Senate.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.